Kyly Mills, a Kamilaroi woman, is evaluating a chronic disease self-management program in an urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.
We hear about ‘closing the gap’ a lot when it comes to Indigenous health, but how does cardiovascular disease fit into this?
‘Closing the gap’ is an aim to close the life-expectancy gap between non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians within a generation. Chronic disease contributes to approximately 80% of this gap, and the number one chronic condition suffered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is cardiovascular disease.
Despite this, there are few group programs that aim to prevent or manage cardiovascular disease for Indigenous Australians, especially when it comes to our urban populations. We need research so that we can know more – what works and what doesn’t work in terms of cardiovascular disease management and prevention.
I’m evaluating a chronic disease self-management group program for urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in south-east Queensland. The program, ‘Work It Out’, was developed and coordinated by the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH). While the program targets people with a diversity of chronic conditions, many people are referred to it either with existing cardiovascular conditions, or at risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
My goal is to see if this type of program, which has a strong cultural focus and is conducted at community controlled health services, is making a difference to anthropometry measures (weight, waist circumference, hip circumference, blood pressure).
When I am looking at numbers all day, I don’t just see ‘numbers’. These numbers could just as well belong to my family or community.
I am also doing an in-depth analysis describing the participants in the program. This is important because while the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in urban areas, little is known about them in terms of their social and demographic factors.
The best times for me as a researcher are when I get the chance to visit the program, and seeing the participants, our aunties and uncles, sisters and brothers wanting to make a difference to their own health and the health of their communities. Their strength, determination and spirit are truly what makes the program special.
When I am looking at numbers all day, I don’t just see ‘numbers’. These numbers could just as well belong to my family or community. Knowing that the learnings from this program could help our mob all over Australia is really what keeps me going.
I would like to thank the Heart Foundation donors and supporters for their assistance in helping me to carry out this research. I believe that continuing this support for other upcoming researchers, particularly through the Indigenous scholarship scheme, will ultimately aid in ‘closing the gap’ and improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.